She & Him: Volume One

She's a cute actress with displayed musical talent, committing her voice to record in spite of the known punchline-precedents. He's a studio brat with a taste for archaic American song forms. Together, though, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are better matched than their lousy grammar would imply; Deschanel's songs are mostly homages to early-'60s girl-pop, which suits Ward's retro agenda just fine. What she lacks in nuance and sheer wind power, she makes up for with plainspoken confidence as she belts out all the old tropes: riding alone on a bicycle built for two, passively-aggressively telling a lover to leave her alone, and so on. The real focus is on the cozy vibe Ward and Deschanel build together without becoming cloying. She multi-tracks and forms her own one-woman girl group; he piles on mini-Spector drums and other tricks to give the songs a '60s sound to go with the structure. A few covers flesh out their game, particularly a lazy Hawaiian-guitar take on "I Should Have Known Better" that gives the Beatles chestnut more space to breathe. The overall effect is an endearing, successful addition to Ward's never-ending quest to assimilate every single populist song form of the 20th century.

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